Previous Features

From issue 254 - August 2018

Rockabilly Rave
By Andy Maguire, Coventry

The Rave is a must do weekend for me every year. I meet up with a couple of mates and it's always a blast. I usually do Friday to Monday but the line up was great for Thursday which was the first night so I decided to bite the bullet, take the night off work and go. Last year I rode there on my motorbike but it was such a chore on the motorway for mile after mile so it was a car this time for the surprisingly smooth journey which took only 3 hours for the 180 miles. As the Rave is a sell out, parking is a nightmare if you arrive on the Friday so another good reason for the early start.

I arrived at Pontins, Camber Sands, Sussex just after 8.30pm. I went straight to reception to check in where I bumped into Geordie who I share with so we went to the deluxe chalet, me to have a quick change and out, Geordie was calling it a night. Sam, my other chalet mate had come back for a quick pitstop so we walked over to the main ballroom to catch the last of DJ Colin Silcocks' set and Bob & The Bearcats were ready to go. Bob Butfoy, Darrel Higham, Nick Hoadley and Les Curtis have reunited for this years Rave before Bob moves over to Spain with his family so he's doing a last Bearcats gig at the Rave. As you can imagine with such accomplished musicians, they put on a good show but after the first couple of numbers I went for a beer which was an adventure in itself. The bar staff were new so when I asked for a bitter shandy the young lad said "We don't have bitter, only Carlsberg or Tetleys", I'll have Tetleys then. I had a couple of beers which for some reason this year were served in plastic cups which won't help save the planet. I had a catch up with Sam and we were joined by some other friends while Deke Dickerson & The Eccofonics were on stage so I just listened from a distance.

I like to watch the dancing when the DJ's are on and the dancing at the Rave is just a bit different to the Wildest Cats weekenders which have an older clientele. It's great to see youngsters on the dance-floor. The Spunyboys from France were the last band on for their first appearance at the Rave. Although no strangers to the UK, they play regularly at the Wildest Cats and gigs around the country. Tonight was in fact their 50th UK gig. I was interested to see how they'd be received and they went down very well with their own brand of high energy Rockabilly with added stage antics. Reme on bass and lead vocals is backed by his brother Guillaume and brilliant guitarist Eddie. They didn't stop for the entire set with Reme constantly gyrating around the stage double bass in hand and sometimes on Eddie's head! Reme also joined the punters on the dance-floor for a song. It had been a long day and it was 1.30am so I left for my bed as they were playing their encore.

Friday morning was a lazy affair with a lie in and a leisurely breakfast/lunch, then out to catch the first band of the day and one of my favourites, the Hayriders. They've been around since the eighties in different guises with mainstay and lead vocalist Neil Wright backed by the brilliant guitar of Darren Lince, legendary multi-talented Pat Reyford on upright bass and Ricky McGann on drums. You can't beat some traditional old school Rockabilly to start the day and they are arguably the best band to bring it. Darren is one of the best guitarists on the Rockin' scene and with Pat Reyford taking over the lead, this was in my opinion the best set so far. I did manage a beer but with a plastic glass and dubious quality anyway it didn't go down well and I went back to the chalet for a cup of tea before Lew Lewis & The Twilight Trio who I don't recall seeing before. A couple of them are retiring soon but not Lew himself who's way too young.

It was such a beautiful day I went to look at the cars and motorbikes to take some photos then off to have a look at the clothing stalls. Although not intending to buy, I certainly don't need any more clothes but on Freddies of Pinewood stall they had a couple of T-shirts that stood out. They were last years design so reduced to 10 each, a bargain. Last band of the afternoon were Mary Ann & Her Berlin Boys from Estonia and Germany, obviously. Lovely vocals from Mary Ann and lovely to look at too after all the men fronting bands so far. One more comedy bar moment was when I asked for an orange squash for Sam and the barman said "We don't have orange squash", blackcurrant then I said as I could see the bottle on the bar, "no blackcurrant either" he said. "We've got cordial though". Sam and I looked at each other and smiled, "orange cordial then please". Dinner time meant day old chilli with garlic bread and chippy chips followed by a rest and a shower before the evening session.

The Lucky Bullets from Norway opened Friday evening's entertainment at 7pm and we were there in plenty of time. There was a hint of craziness about these guys before they started and with a passing resemblance to Johnny Depp, lead singer Little T (probably not his real name) didn't disappoint. Lots of self penned numbers and the best version of Neil Sedaka's 'I Go Ape' I've ever heard although I haven't heard many to be fair. So with the world cup on we wanted to watch some football so we came back to watch the second half of the Portugal v Spain game. Then on the way back to the ballroom we got chatting to some friends so missed the Smalltown Casanovas but made it back for Shaun Young & The Three Ringers from the USA who were a little on the country side for me but good at what they did and pleasant enough to listen to in the background as we chatted.

By this time, 10pm, it was pretty full and getting to the bar was a real chore with the prospect of dreadful lager or bitter in a plastic glass at the end of it. Whoever is in charge needs to sort it out, they would sell so much more and make more profit. The foreigners who make up over half of the punters must wonder how we get away with it in our country. The Hot Boogie Chillun from Germany had been hyped up and there was a noticeable excitement building and the dance-floor was filling up with eager fans. They're a successful band with a 15 year history to date. They certainly have an energy about them and got the crowd going but are a bit too bluesy for me. Bob Butfoy's second appearance of the weekend was with legendary Jack Rabbit Slim. The kings of Sleazabilly were playing their last Rave gig although they do have bookings up until November so you can still catch them if you wish. A high energy set to end the evening at 2am and it was back for a wind down cup of tea and a burger before bed.

Another lie in and breakfast took most of the morning and actually some of the afternoon as visitors popped round for a chat meaning we missed Jack & The Real Deals in the Queen Vic bar which is the smallest of the three music venues. It does create a good atmosphere and you can dip in and out for a drink outside but that's lost its attraction now due to the poor quality beer in plastic glasses, sorry to keep going on about it. Eddie & The Headstarts from France were upstairs at 2pm and were a pleasant enough band who are nice to listen to but nothing to get excited about. I had to come back to get started typing up my review so back to the chalet for a cuppa and fire up my laptop. I headed back to watch Mons Wheeler at 5pm. I'm not sure what the name means but the Irish front man had a great voice and wooed the ladies with some crooning and yodeling. I didn't stay for the full set as I had to get back and cook dinner before people came back for showers.

We couldn't have the cooker and shower on at the same time. I'd eaten and showered ready for the evening but there was no sign of Sam or Geordie so I headed off to the balcony opposite where my friend Lee was jigging around to Johnny Burnette. I stayed for a beer or two but had to go when Teresa, his wife reminded him it was his turn in the shower. I popped into another chalet lured in by the offer of a vodka so I was there for a while too. By the time I got to the venue it was 9pm so I'd missed a couple of bands. Colton Turner, a young singer from Austin, Texas was on stage. New to me so I tried to get a bit closer to the stage to see him better but he had drawn a large crowd and there was no chance so I got a beer and found my friends.

The ballroom was busy with a good buzz about it, even the bar staff seemed to be improving and the lager tasted better too, so things were looking up. I wasn't sure who the next act was, Doug Kershaw, but he was being backed by The Dave 'n' Deke combo who are fantastic so I got as near to the stage as I could as Dave 'n' Deke played a couple of numbers before introducing Doug to the crowd. Well there's usually a legend from the 1950's who Jerry Chattabox books for a nostalgic slot and this year it was Doug Kershaw. Sometimes it's just nice to say you've seen another legend when in reality they're well passed their sell by date and disappointing so when this old fella appeared from the back of the stage, fiddle in hand I wasn't expecting much but he looked lively enough for an 82 year old, yes 82! He fired up the fiddle and launched into track after track with great banter from the backing musicians who included his son. What a fantastic set and as it went on it was evident that Doug was getting pretty emotional about the reaction he was getting from the crowd who were loving the show. Doug's history is amazing and worth a Google but one of his claims to fame is the song 'Hey Mae' which has been covered by loads of artists. So they did a great version of that.

The act I was looking forward to the most, Scotty Baker, was on next. I got a good spot near to the stage but not quite at the front so couldn't get great photos. Scotty is from Australia and is here without his band so was backed by the brilliant Doel Brothers from the UK with Ezra Lee on keyboard. They complimented him really well and there was some good banter going on too. I like bands who do mainly covers as newly written tracks on the whole aren't quite as good but Scotty is an exception with a great variety of jiving, strolling and weepy self penned tracks. He started off with 'Back To The Country' from his new album which I intended to add to my collection during the weekend. 'Pop The Question' is already a classic jiver which was of course in this set with Kenny Tomlinson joining the band on saxophone. I stayed for most of the set but do like to listen from the back of the room to see the reaction of the audience.